ENNISTYMON will benefit from major infrastructural developments over the coming years, with the development of a new €25 million post-primary school, and €16 million for the Inner Relief Road to address serious traffic congestion issues in the town.
This is in addition to the provision of €500,000 from Bord Fáilte for placement of overhead cables underground, upgrading of the square and footpath repair works.
The preparation of a new Enhancement Strategy for Ennistymon is regarded as timely by the Ennistymon Town Team, which is a group of residents, community workers and business people working in partnership with the Clare Local Development Company.
Paul Conway stressed the recent controversy surrounding the proposed location of Púca sculpture in the town, which was put on hold, illustrated the importance of proper consultation in the local community. The Ennistymon Town Enhancement project team had already planned consultation when the Púca controversy erupted.
About four years ago the town team concept was mooted for three towns – Kilrush, Scariff and Ennistymon, and the Ennistymon Town Team was set up in February 2018.
Gerry Reidy explained the purpose of the town team project was to act as an umbrella organisation to promote various activities in the locality.
The Clare Local Development Company employed a Dublin-based consultant, Future Analytics, who set up a support structure for the new teams. Each of the three towns was required to produce a new town strategy for their future short and long term requirements.
With the assistance of Clare County Council and LEADER, a local committee is involved in the Ennistymon Enhancement Project, which is led by a Galway-based consultant, Helena McElmeel Architects.
Recently, the consultants and Clare County Council officials facilitated a three-hour public consultation of local residents in the town square and also accepted online public submissions.
The provision of bus parking, public toilets and more litter bins were some of the key proposals that were made during the public survey.
Comments on the traffic bottleneck at Blake’s Corner ranged from knocking these two buildings to retaining them for a craft shop or new museum.
Mr Conway said the debate around the provision of public toilets and adequate bins is an issue for most towns around the country, as local authorities have decided not to take on the responsibility for these public services any longer.
Gerry Reidy said one of the biggest assets of the town is the river running through it, yet there are no grants provided to paint some of the backs of houses that are not painted, which becomes even more distinctive during the winter.
“If we accept the river is a huge asset for the town, we should be presenting it in the best possible way. I have an image of Ennistymon on my computer screen dating back to 1888, which hasn’t really changed that much.
“The river could be used far better. The only real amenity is the walkway down by the side of it.
“If you try to clean up the river, you are put through hoops to meet planning and environmental issues. There is huge potential in the river.”
Apart from Burns’ restaurant who have painted the rear of the premises, there have been calls for the rear of buildings facing the river to be painted.
Two years ago, a grants scheme helped defray the cost of painting the front of buildings in the run up to the Duty Free Irish Open in Lahinch Golf Club.
Maude Hogan pointed out when the new bridge is built as part of the new scheme, there will be open access to the river. “The Inagh River will then be very much a focal point on the old bridge.”
She said another proposal was the upgrading of Parliament Street, which has been somewhat neglected, apart from some new health shops, as McInerney’s the old electrical shop has been left vacant for the last ten or 15 years.
She believes this shop could be converted into a new community hub near the new modern Digital Hub provided by Clare County Council.
“What people liked about Ennistymon was the sense of community and the marriage of the old and the new as there are a lot of new businesses in the town now. They don’t always last very long, but they create a buzz in the town.
“Some people also want to incorporate farming in as part of the town. Fair days were held in the street before the mart, which has now closed and is replaced by Aldi.
“There was a proposal for a farm shop as a reminder for where we came from. We are very much part of the North Clare farming community.”
Mr Reidy stressed new parking spaces need to be developed in the town, particularly for tour buses, to entice more than one million tourists to stop who are currently on their way to the Cliffs of Moher.
“There has never been so much money being provided for development in Ennistymon,” he said.
One of the dilemmas that will have to be resolved is deciding between the competing demands for more parking and on-street open dining areas.
An interim report will be produced shortly by the consultant and that will start the process of formulating proposals, which will in turn form the basis for another round of public consultation.
Once a consensus emerges as to the best way forward for the town, the final consultant’s report will be presented for implementation to Clare County Council.
Ms Hogan expects the community enhancement project will provide ideas to help progress the town over the coming years.
A Zoom meeting with local businesses to get their input about the future development of the town took place on Monday.
by Dan Danaher